Atkinson, Paul and Martyn Hammersley. 1994. “Ethnography and Participant Observation.” In Handbook of Qualitative Research. Ed. N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln. Pp. 248-260. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ethnography as a methodological paradigm, vs. ethnography as a method. Exploration versus hypothesis testing; characterized by unstructured data (data left uncoded at point of collection); small number of cases/case study orientation, “analysis of data that involves explicit interpretation of the meanings and functions of human actions, the product of which mainly takes the form of verbal descriptions and explanations, with quantification and statistical analysis playing a subordinate role at most” (248). Participant vs. non-participant observation: complete observation, observer as participant, participant as observer, complete participant (Gold 1958; Junker 1960) – dependent on collective knowledge of the topic and by whom, who is observing, what activities are (not) performed by the researcher and how this impacts how people/the observer/the setting relate; how researcher orients oneself in terms of positionality and reflexivity.
“In a sense, all social research is a form of participant observation, because we cannot study the social world without being a part of it” (Hammersly and Atkinson 1983, 249) – a way of “being-in-the-world.” A combinations of philosophies, ethics, and methodologies, intertwine with theoretical orientations. Debate between observation and advocacy, scientific vs. humane. Shaped by colonialist framing of the Other; patterns of ethnography in “home” societies, and recognizing diversities within resident societies is a phenomenon of the 20th century.
Anthropological roots, integration of Chicago school of sociology in 1920’s-30’s, combining journalistic inquiry with sociopolitical/philosophical theorizing, some as a means toward idealism/historicism. Different goals in end product or intent for information dictate methods used to perform ethnography.
Differences in interpretation the (positivist) scientific method create discrepancies and diversity in method/ologies. Quantitative methodologies are sometimes adopted by ethnographers, but some conflict, feminist ethnographers view positivism as a point of oppression and a privileging of certain epistemes. However, how to offer validity to the ethnographic interpretation of a researcher? Previously, professionalization of the field offered ability to defend interpretations; however postmodern and constructionist arguments, complicate this with notions of hierarchy, control, reification of social phenomenon and the study of it.
Ethnography for what audience? Academics? The persons involved? Politicians and policies?
*** However, it is important to still focus on the traditional purpose of ethnography – to produce knowledge. “We should not replace this with the pursuit of practical goals that, although sometimes more valuable in themselves, are no more worth in general term of our time and effort than the pursuit of knowledge.” (kx^ how do we justify this? Disagree with the following inclusion: “utopian attempts to do politics by means of research are of no service to anyone” – both 254).
Notes importance of ethnographic texts of Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus 1986), and Geertz (1973) – the quality and authorship of ethnographic knowledge as impacted by individuals – the “fiction” of anthropological writings.
Role of literary trends as impacting anthropological writing – realism, surrealism, biographical, naturalistic, dramatic, etc. – monologic versus dialogic
Gold, R. 1958. “Roles in Sociological Field Observations.” Social Forces 36: 217-223.
Hammersley, M. and P. Atkinson. 1983. Ethnography: Principles in Practice. London: Tavistock.
Junker, B. 1960. Field Work. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.